Cannabis is certainly becoming more mainstream, but the divide between the enthusiasts and those who don’t understand it makes the Grand Canyon look like a crack in the sidewalk.
While cannabis users discuss terpene profiles and trichomes, the rest seem hell-bent on throwing around the long-disproven gateway-drug theory while muttering something about “fried brain cells”.
Thankfully, Vancouver’s long-standing relationship with marijuana means there are opportunities for people to reprogram their ways of thinking—like taking in the upcoming Cannabis Life Conference. The conference ($15 in advance) will feature renowned industry professionals including doctors, lawyers, growers, activists and more, all offering up a little enlightenment.
Take, for example, Derek Riedle. The founder and publisher of Civilized, a news platform geared to those who use cannabis as part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle, saw a gap in the media landscape when cannabis started becoming less taboo.
Riedle says he experimented a few times in college but left it behind when he moved on to the work world, where he found alcohol to be much more commonplace.
“Drinking culture in North America is a big thing. In my mid-30s, I had two young kids, and those Friday-night beers started making it awfully hard to get up with those kids on Saturday morning,” Riedle tells the Straight from his hometown of Saint John, New Brunswick, where he stays when he’s not living in L.A.
Now, drinking is something Riedle does once or twice a year. If his wife is enjoying a glass of wine, you can usually find him puffing on his vaporizer.
“I know hundreds of people who have seemingly normal lives and aren’t that typical ‘stoner’. Civilized came from that feeling that I had of being unrepresented in cannabis culture,” he says.
At the conference, Riedle will speak on a panel about lifestyle and creativity. He says embarking on a legal recreational market is giving people not only legislative but social licence to engage with and discuss cannabis more openly.
“I want people to feel comfortable about their use, and for those that are canna-curious, who may have had an experience many years ago, I want them to feel comfortable having a dialogue,” he says.
In Riedle’s mind, one of the best ways to educate people about cannabis is for those who use it to be “living examples”.
While Riedle will focus on lifestyle, Dr. Dave Hepburn will speak to cannabis’s applications for cancer.
For over 10 years, Hepburn prescribed cannabis to cancer patients at his Victoria family-medicine practice. He’s since retired and spends his time on speaking tours, addressing other doctors who are unsure about using cannabis to help their patients.
Referencing a 400-page report from the Washington, D.C.–based National Academies of Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering, Hepburn says there is now conclusive and substantive evidence that cannabis effectively treats side effects caused by chemotherapy.
Not only that, organizations like the American National Cancer Institute have confirmed cannabis slows the growth of cancer cells, while also protecting normal cells—something Hepburn says medical professionals seek in every treatment.
Hepburn says cannabis also has the ability to make a patient’s regular treatment more effective. He calls this effect potentiation.
“It can actually make chemotherapy work better,” he says from his home in Victoria.
He tells of an analysis published by researchers from three American universities, which found that the risk of a cancer patient dying in a hospital was reduced by 56 percent among cannabis users. The study included four million patients in over 1,000 hospitals, and used data from the U.S. Nationwide Inpatient Sample database.
“When you think of the reasons people go into palliative care, it’s because of pain, fear, anxiety, and appetite—all these things cannabis works on,” he says.
Another speaker, Adolfo Gonzales, will be part of a panel discussion about cannabis’s two most popular compounds, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD).
Having worked in the industry for 15 years as a grower, frontline worker, writer, and training specialist in Vancouver, Gonzales has acted as a consultant to patients, dispensary employees, and organizations.
For 11 of those years, he’s been collecting data on what works best for patients and their specific conditions to provide contextualized information that allows people to help make decisions for themselves.
“We in the Vancouver cannabis community have one of the longest-standing traditions of dispensary context and medical-product manufacturing, so there are a lot of things we know that the medical community doesn’t know yet,” he tells the Straight over the phone.
Gonzales says discussion within the cannabis industry about the plant’s various compounds has shifted significantly over the last few years, and he expects it to go even deeper as more research is published about other, lesser known compounds.
“The conversation has gone from ‘CBD is good, and THC is bad’ to ‘They work best together,’ and I think it’s going to evolve much further,” he says. “I think that we’re going to hear more about the acidic forms of THC and CBD [THCa and CBDa], and about the modality of consumption. The specific ratios and the presence of all of these other compounds needs to be taken into account.”
The Cannabis Life Conference takes place at the Westin Bayshore on Friday and Saturday (July 7 and 8).